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Kenya Sends Refugees Back to Camp Where They Faced Antigay Attacks

Kenyan with rainbow flag

Armed police rounded up 76 refugees, including LGBTQ people and children, and returned them to the camp Wednesday.

The Kenyan government has returned a group of refugees to a camp where many were subjected to anti-LGBTQ attacks.

Seventy-six refugees, including LGBTQ people and children, had fled to safe houses in Nairobi, the nation's capital, the BBC reports. But armed police rounded them up Wednesday night, put them on buses, and sent them back to the camp in Kakuma, in the northwestern part of Kenya.

The government said refugees "should be living in camps and, if they reside outside of camps, it should be with appropriate documentation," according to the United Nations' refugee agency, which pledged to protect those living in the camps.

The Kakuma camp houses "tens of thousands," the BBC notes. Many are from South Sudan and Somalia, which have been wracked by drought and war, but some are from countries that criminalize gay sex, such as Uganda and Burundi. Kenya has a similar antigay law, which its highest court upheld last month.

One refugee, identified by the pseudonym "Frank," told the BBC that when his family in Burundi found out he was gay, they hired hit men to kill him. He was tied up and thrown into a river, but he was rescued by nearby shepherds. He then made his way through Rwanda and Uganda, and eventually arrived at the Kakuma camp.

But at the camp, "he faced regular violent attacks for being gay and now has a huge scar on his face," the BBC reports. As camp administrators said they could not prevent such attacks, he left and went to Nairobi, but he and other LGBTQ refugees were harassed there as well. He and some fellow refugees left one house after attacks by neighbors and a threat of eviction. At their next house, they were confronted by police Wednesday and escorted to the buses that took them back to the camp.

"Wherever we have lived we face homophobia because of our orientation," he told the BBC. "We don't know where to flee to."

Today is World Refugee Day.

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